August 16, 2018

Tips for Managing the Transition from Paper to Digital Physician Scheduling

3 min read

Written by: James Nichols  |  Share:

Transitioning from manual to digital physician scheduling requires sensitive change management. But you have good reasons to make this switch.

Manual scheduling processes:

1) Create significant inefficiencies, are error-prone and can't keep up with dynamic staffing changes.
2) Do not provide data required to analyze scheduling practices and optimize them accordingly.

The reasons to transition away from manual scheduling are clear. Making that transition effectively is a far more murky prospect. When you are attempting to upend a traditional process for workforce management, stakeholder analysis and engagement are critical success factors.

Gaining Buy-In as You Transition to Digital Scheduling

Before you can gain buy-in from the various stakeholders in the scheduling process, you must place your finger directly on the pulse of your department and the clinicians within it. For example, you may have received buy-in from your leadership team for the change prior to implementation, but your clinicians will truly make or break the solution's success and you must actively drive their buy-in as well. As you work to understand the requirements of each set of stakeholders, you can then begin building a shared vision for the impact of digital scheduling for your whole team.

To make a conversation productive, consider who your trusted team members are and start by asking a small group of them for their opinions before you approach any executives.

What Should the Conversation Focus on?

When you discuss the transition with the group you choose to consult, first outline your case for change. Describe how digital scheduling will directly benefit clinicians. Rather than prioritizing exactly how it will save you time, consider sharing that this transition will make it easier for colleagues to swap shifts or take days off creating fair and balanced schedules. Likewise, mention that it will save the department money that could be used to benefit patients and clinicians. Another advantage of making this transition is access to a mobile app. The ability to have their schedules right in their hands (or pockets) at all times will greatly appeal to your clinicians, as it grants them independence and awareness.

Compare the current state of scheduling with what would be possible for clinicians after the change. You will, of course, also have to relay these benefits to the executive leadership team when the time comes. But for now, you can gain buy-in internally so you have allies.

Constant Communication

After gaining team buy-in, the key to transitioning successfully to digital scheduling is constant communication about the timeline, implementation, and processes. Change management is the challenge of transition. To do it successfully, you must communicate every change before it happens, and the reason for that change. Take the time to create a communication plan. Be deliberate about your messaging to your staff and offer the opportunity to receive feedback. Organize meetings or send memos. Creating a plan will enable the transition process dramatically and speak to the specific personality type that your clinicians fit into.

Clinicians are highly educated and analytical people, and it is important to consider this orientation when building your communication plan. Transparency is important, as is a data-driven approach (if possible). Be clear and forthcoming with information on operational changes in their department. Clinicians are more apt to support a switch to digital scheduling that hasn't blindsided them. Transparency in the implementation process will set the tone for the upcoming switch. Being clear and communicative will decrease growing pains that occur and increase a sense of trust for the new model. You'll also want to communicate about process changes that are the result of good old-fashioned streamlining.

You simply cannot over-communicate a change like this. Don't keep secrets.

Partnership Helps

Additional support for change management can come from external sources. You may need to clearly communicate the reasons for the change, but the best people to assist you with understanding those reasons could be your implementation partners (if you find the right ones). The transition to digital scheduling doesn't happen overnight, and it doesn't happen without great technology and even greater partners.

Finding a support system that has an outside perspective and a successful history of implementation can be the key difference between a smooth switch to digital and a failed attempt at change. Look for a team who has strength in change management to guide you. Couple that strength with your ongoing transparency and the many sound reasons you've established for the change and you should be on the fast track to a successful transition.

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Topics: Physician Scheduling